The Meccano Bridge came about as a result of the need for a footbridge to replace the old horse bridge at Nob End, Little Lever. The construction of a new bridge at this site was to allow The Canal Society to re-route the footpath and make it possible to restore this section of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal.
The original brief for artist Liam Curtin was to make an artwork for Little Lever. Discussions with local people, the Council, and the Canal Society led to the artwork being based at the canal and that artwork becoming a functional bridge.
There were many ideas, but the final proposal was for a bridge made from giant meccano. – meccano scaled up by ten times. Meccano is scaled down engineering; this proposal involves scaling meccano back up. A giant meccano set was made by a local fabricator. Each part including the nuts and bolts was scaled up by ten times, ten times longer, ten times thicker and a thousand times heavier. Each part wasa faithfully rendered at the new scale. The site was fenced off and scaffolded giving a flat plain for the bridge to be assembled. Local volunteers were invited to be trained to help in the assembly. The material is galvanised mild steel. The new bridge simply rests on the refurbished abutments.
Creating a design that can be assembled by local people was a major part of this project; it was felt that the engagement of local people would help to endear the bridge to the local population.
“building a bridge from giant meccano is the fulfilment of a childhood dream. I spent my entire childhood building mechanical devices from meccano and now we have the largest meccano set in the world!”
“This project is unique not just in the sense that it is scaled up meccano but because local people are actually building their own footbridge and as such it is bringing the community together and providing for them a permanent focus in a beautiful setting that is not only functional but a work of public art”
“It wasn’t until I actually saw the finished pieces arriving from the factory that I realise we had created something quite wonderful. As members of the canal society unpacked the lorry they appeared like Lilliputian figures in a magical toy world”
“I find that the best art I have made has always been a collaboration. This bridge is a fusion of art, engineering and fantasy. Engineers from Bolton council have been creative and inventive in solving problems giving us something which is structurally sound without compromising the artwork. Every piece is a genuine scaled up meccano part all made in Bolton including the massive nuts and bolts. I am so grateful to everyone involved, the local residents and canal society members, who have been working tirelessly to reconstruct the old abutments, the factories in Bolton who made it, the engineers who designed the structure and the nice people at Bolton at Home who have co-ordinated what has become a complex project.”
Overall project management: Gaynor Cox, Bolton at Home
Artist: Liam Curtin
Engineer: Jon Tuson, Bolton Council
Main Contractor: The Canal Society
More information about the Meccano bridge, download: Meccano bridge proposal [1.9Mb]
Location: Nob End, Little Lever, Bolton BL3 1AB